With 70% of King County residents age 16 and older considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and the number continuing to increase, Public Health — Seattle & King County announced the end of the King County Mask Directive as of Tuesday, June 29, 2021.
Now that the local directive has ended, the Washington state mask guidance is in effect in King County. Unvaccinated people will need to continue wearing masks in indoor public spaces and crowded outdoor spaces.
The end of the local mask directive marks a remarkable achievement for the residents of King County as high vaccination coverage has led to drops in COVID-19 cases.
King County has reached this milestone today, two weeks after 70% of residents age 16+ completed their vaccine series, as it takes two weeks after completing the vaccine series to be fully protected. Now that the local directive has lifted, the Washington state mask guidance is in effect in King County. Unvaccinated people will need to continue wearing masks in indoor public spaces and crowded outdoor spaces and continue to take other precautions including avoiding crowded indoor spaces and physical distancing.
The end of the local directive nearly coincides with an end to most COVID-19 pandemic restrictions statewide, including in King County. That happens this Wednesday, June 30.
Now that the local mask directive has ended in King County, it’s important to know that:
- Vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask in most public settings but may choose to do so based on personal considerations.
- Everyone, vaccinated or not, should continue to keep a mask with them when they go out. Masks will be needed in some indoor spaces.
- People who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated must continue to wear face coverings when they enter indoor public spaces, according to state guidance. This helps protect not only adults who are unvaccinated, particularly as more contagious variants are spreading, but also children and those with medical conditions that prevent them from getting vaccinated or from being fully protected by vaccines.
- Businesses are allowed to request or require their customers and employees to wear masks regardless of vaccination status.
- If there is a surge in COVID-19, masks will be an important tool. Don’t throw away those masks!
Because COVID-19 spreads through the air, including from people who do not have symptoms, it is critical for those who are unvaccinated to continue to wear masks indoors and limit indoor gatherings with unvaccinated people to decrease their risk for acquiring COVID-19 and spreading the infection to others. With more contagious variants circulating, if COVID-19 increases in the future, mask-wearing may be recommended more widely to prevent the spread of infection.
Even vaccinated people may choose to continue wearing masks in public places. Some vaccinated people may choose to continue wearing a mask if they are at increased risk for severe infection, have an underlying health condition, or are in close contact with someone at increased risk. Others may choose to continue to wear a mask to support mask-wearing by unvaccinated people or because they feel more comfortable doing so. Some people also wear masks to protect themselves from other respiratory illnesses or allergens.
Thanks to highly effective COVID-19 vaccines and decreasing rates of disease in our community at this time, vaccinated people are no longer directed to wear masks in most indoor public settings but may choose to do so at their discretion.” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer, Public Health – Seattle & King County.
“We are in a much better place today, but the course of the COVID-19 outbreak remains unpredictable and we continue to depend on one another for community protection, including through vaccination as well as mask wearing. People who are unvaccinated are at increased risk for COVID-19 along with people who do not respond to vaccine because they are immunocompromised due to underlying medical conditions. The best protection for both individuals and the community as a whole will be through more of us continuing to be vaccinated.”
About the local mask directive
The King County Mask Directive was issued on May 20 and strongly urged all residents, fully vaccinated or not, to wear face masks in public indoor settings to help us all stay safer until our community was more protected from the virus.
Our community is now more protected than in May. Since the King County Mask Directive was issued, an additional 209,733 people age 16 and older completed their vaccine series, and another 114,970 first doses were administered to people of all ages. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations also decreased substantially with the case rate dropping 69%.
Looking toward re-opening
In addition to the mask directive ending, the State of Washington will be lifting restrictions because the current levels of COVID-19 have decreased substantially – largely due to vaccination, and over 75% of Washingtonians over 65 years of age have been vaccinated, protecting them from severe illness. There will no longer be mandated restrictions on the number of people who can be in most indoor public spaces or how far they must be spaced.
As re-opening occurs, Public Health is urging businesses and organizations with indoor facilities to take steps to improve air ventilation and filtration. COVID-19 spreads primarily through the air, and better air flow and filtration will help prevent the spread of infections and future outbreaks.
For residents, continuing to gather outdoors is a safer option than indoors, particularly for large gatherings. For more information on re-opening, visit Washington State Department of Health’s Frequently Asked Questions about reopening.
- For questions and answers about re-opening, including more information about mask wearing for workplaces, visit Frequently Asked Questions: kingcounty.gov/safereopen
- For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine, including a full list of vaccination sites and appointment options, visit: kingcounty.gov/vaccine